Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds and other University officials, including University Police Chief Tim Longo, have drafted a bill that would outlaw carrying a firearm at state-owned colleges. Under the proposed bill, any individual convicted of possessing a firearm on University property would be subject to a class one misdemeanor.
Currently, Virginia law forbids the carrying and possession of firearms on Commonwealth-owned property, with the exclusion of institutions of higher education. The new bill would amend the existing policy to eliminate the exemption for higher education, and would allow campus law enforcement to obtain a search warrant if they receive reports of illegal possession of firearms in university buildings. Under current policy, law enforcement is prevented from obtaining a search warrant if the suspect is not accused of an additional crime.
“[The bill] will give law enforcement more ability to intervene when there’s a suspicion that a firearm is present,” Deeds said.
The proposed bill comes after the Nov. 13 shooting when second-year College student Devin Chandler, fourth-year College student D’Sean Perry and third-year College student Lavel Davis Jr were killed. Two other students, third-year College student Mike Hollins and second-year College student Marlee Morgan, also suffered non-fatal injuries.
Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. has since been charged in the shooting — Jones had previously been reported to the University's threat assessment team in fall 2022 for alleged possession of a gun. The Office of Student Affairs responded to the report and made efforts to contact Jones as well as his roommate, who said he saw no indication that Jones had a gun. Jones also failed to inform the University of a prior criminal incident including a firearm.
Through a search warrant, awarded retroactively, the Virginia State Police located a number of guns in Jones’s on Grounds residence Nov. 17, including a semi-automatic rifle, a Smith & Wesson pistol, ammunition, and a pair of Glock 9-millimeter magazines – a device designed to store ammunition.
“I was anxious to find out as much as I could [about legislation] to try to figure out whether there was anything we could do, any change we could make in state law that would make [the shooting] less likely to occur,” Deeds said. “The folks in the administration at U.Va. were thinking the same thing, and so this is legislation that I’ve been working on with them for several weeks.”
For Deeds, whose son took his own life in 2013, commonwealth gun policies are personal as well as political — Deeds has been a strong advocate for legislation aimed at mental health and gun control, including policies that would ban the sale and possession of semi-automatic rifles manufactured after July 1 and raise the age to purchase such weapons.
“You can’t bring those kids back,” Deeds said. “But we can work to make sure that it’s less likely that something like this occurs in the future. And that’s what this bill is about.”
The legislation is currently processing through the state Senate — Senators voted to dispense with the typical three readings of the bill Friday. If the bill passes in the Senate, it will move to the House for the next round of votes.